ARTLESS in the Los Angeles Times

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The Essentialists

Alejandro—“Alex” to his friends—Artigas and Thomas John Curtin Jr. are, to use a well-worn phrase, men of parts. In their case, a lot of parts. Curtin, 30, a graduate from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts and Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design, is an interior designer who creates fine art in multiple media. Artigas, 32, trained as an architect at the Southern California Institute of Architecture and Columbia University and has completed several large-scale public-art projects in his family’s native home, Mexico City.

He, too, undertakes interior-design work (though he hastens to note that he does not concern himself with decorative details like curtains and paint colors). And in a faux-neoclassical house at the corner of Genesee and Fountain avenues in West Hollywood, Artigas has established a boutique cum atelier, House on Genesee, where he exhibits and sells the work of creative spirits he admires: artists, fashion designers, shoemakers and jewelry makers such as his sister Gabriela Artigas, whose pieces range from the dramatically ethnographic to the quietly sublime.

More significantly, the two run Artless, a slyly named collaborative founded in 2003. Artigas and Curtin decline to use the term designers, preferring words like investigation and inquiry, which allow for more latitude. Despite the esoteric pronouncements, the two are quite practical. Discussing a piece called GAX—a slab of polished walnut on square aluminum legs—Artigas says, “The world has enough stuff. Why make something that will not last a generation?”

Nearly all of the furnishings in the Artless roster have sleek, spare, Bauhausian lines. The only nod to ornament is the use of color, almost always in earth tones. Again, Artigas waxes philosophical about the intention of such pieces. “Thirty years ago, the ultimate luxury was a big juicy steak covered in béarnaise sauce,” he says.

What Artless does “is more like eating an heirloom tomato. You have a raw material and treat it with minimal intrusions: salt, pepper, oil and that’s it. I think we are after this kind of subtlety.” Sounds tasty—and healthy.

GREGORY CERIO is the editor of Modern Magazine.

LA-Times

This week in LA Weekly

Where showcasing is a way of life

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Everything in Alejandro Artigas‘ house in West Hollywood is for sale. People — friends, relatives, total strangers — are constantly popping in for a visit. They receive a kiss on each cheek in the traditional European manner from 32-year-old Alejandro or his younger sisters Gabriela, who is 30, and Teresita, who is 28. The siblings aren’t having a garage sale. It is like this all the time at the corner of Genesee and Fountain avenues.

PHOTO BY JENNIE WARREN

Not long ago, the cops stopped by. They did not receive a kiss, but they took a look around at the great natural light, at the clothes made by avant-garde Mexican designers, at the countless stylish items for sale.

What you’re doing is great, is perfect, the police said, but you have to stop. The siblings were in violation of the city’s zoning codes.

The house on Genesee — officially (and subtly) known as the House on Genesee — is located in a residential zone but was being officially and subtly used for commercial purposes.

“Legally we can’t be open all the time,” Alejandro says. “So now we have to say we’re open only by appointment, and we can’t advertise the address. People have to contact us to find out where we are. After they contact us, then there’s been a personal exchange.”

People who come to the house often don’t want to leave. They linger. They conduct meetings in the dining room. They try clothes on in the bathroom. They do yoga in the backyard next to the vegetable garden. Teresita remembers a guy who stopped by on Valentine’s Day. He wound up staying the whole day, parked on the couch, perfectly at home. “Do you have any special plans?” she asked politely.

“I’m here, aren’t I?” he said.

“The original notion of an 18th-century French salon was a public-private space,” says Alejandro, who lives in the house. The bed he sleeps on is for sale. So are the nightstands, the wallpaper and the photographs on the wall. If you want to live exactly as Alejandro does — if you want to use the same vegan shampoo, or light the same pollen soy candles, or wear the same sneakers — these items are all on view and ready to be purchased at the house. Some might call this “stalking.” The Artigas siblings call it “showcasing.”

When someone expressed interest in the chandelier hanging over the dining room table, the siblings hadn’t really thought of selling the various fixtures that are semi-permanently attached to the residence. But then they figured, if they were to truly carry through with their concept of a showcased life, why not?

Are the plants for sale, too?

“Well, if you want them,” Gabriela says.

Is the lamp for sale?

“Yes.”

Is the couch for sale?

“Yes.”

Is the dog for sale?

“No!” she shrieks. The sleek Italian greyhound skitters across the living room. Well, she allows, Alejandro did put a $9.99 tag on the dog once as a joke.

Pets aside, sometimes items are so perfect, it is hard to part with them. “We had these bronze rabbits — ” Teresita says.

“Amazing bronze rabbits!” Gabriela interrupts.

Things come and things go. Terrariums, the purse slung casually over the doorknob, the slick Trista dresses and Te Amo blazers with ferocious, asymmetrical shoulders, the jewelry that Gabriela makes, even the display cases. Minimalism is the art of letting go.

“Probably we wouldn’t buy another lamp if they bought the lamp. Probably it would be a vase,” Gabriela says.

The house is neat and well presented with almost zero human mess. “The thing is, we’ve always lived like this,” Gabriela says. “My mom’s house is very similar. My house is presentable also.”

“Our grandfather was an architect,” Alejandro explains. “He was very strict. Everything in his closet was perfectly color-coordinated. I saw him wear a suit maybe twice in his life, but he had a row of suits in plastic bags with the belts already threaded through the loops and pocket handkerchiefs in the pockets, and shoes aligned beneath.”

Alejandro’s grandfather, Francisco Artigas, was of the midcentury-modern school, Mexico’s version of Eames. Which means he was the sort of person who liked clean edges, negative space and his cars lined up just so in the driveway. He asked people to kindly dry the bar of soap after they’d washed their hands.

Yes, keeping up a high level of show-readiness is taxing. But it is also deeply ingrained in the siblings, Alejandro especially. He would be miserable not doing it. “It’s like you do a sequence every morning,” he explains. “You make the bed, pick stuff up from the floor, and so on.” After years of practice, chores become habits, which become compulsions, which become beliefs.

“I try to leave my house like no one lives there,” he says proudly.

If people visit, it’s because they can relate aesthetically. Even though the siblings own the house and struggle to pay the mortgage every month, they seem less interested in aggressively selling the stuff inside it than in having people over to check it out.

“We’re showcasing the way we live,” Alejandro says, “and that’s a different form of communication. If you want to buy it, it’s okay. If not, someone else will.”

That they do. Gabriela mentions that every time she leaves the house, someone comes up to her to ask where she got her shirt, or necklace, or whatever, and that she is not bragging, just relaying a point of fact.

Alejandro, who built most of the furniture in the house, like his grandfather, originally studied architecture. He runs his hand over the smooth plane of a desk and says, “Why I do furniture now is because furniture allows me a level of perfection and control that architecture doesn’t.”

For instance, Alejandro designed the clothes rack in his bedroom. It is made of two wishbone-shaped pieces of dark walnut pierced by a chrome pole. He could have joined the two pieces of wood and the pole with little silver bolts, but he couldn’t stand the seam of the pole not being exactly flush with the wood. It is that sort of attention to detail that drives him to distraction.

“I remember pencils,” Gabriela says of her grandfather. “They were on his desk. If one was out of place, he noticed.”

“No, that’s not true,” Alejandro says.

“Yes, he did,” Gabriela says.

The house is perfect, but memory is not.

Mondette on US

Mondette

(From left: Gabriela, Teresita, and Alejandro)

Occupation: Showroom owners, jewelry, fashion and furniture designers, artists, terrarium creators.

Address: houseongenesee.com

Why we like them: It’s rare to find such a wide array of talents in one place. The Artigas siblings—Teresita, Gabriela, and Alejandro—not only assemble a selection of some of LA’s finest emerging designers in their showroom, they are also exceptionally talented themselves. Be it Gabriela’s bold necklaces, Alejandro’s sleek furniture or Teresita’s meditative terrariums, the Artigas family’s good taste is sure to convince in every design department… (A few questions with the siblings, after the jump.)

Where are you from?

Mexico City.

How long have you lived here?

Teresita: About five and a half years.

Gabriela: Around seven years, but I go to Mexico pretty often. I still have a house there and a lot of my close friends live there as well.

Where do you live in LA?

Teresita: West Hollywood. My house is right in the middle (Beverly, La Cienega and 3rd Street) but very secluded, full of trees and plants, so I enjoy every second I’m there.

Gabriela: In West Hollywood.

Alejandro: I live in Silver Lake.

What do you like best about the neighborhood you live in?

Teresita: I love that I can walk or ride my bike everywhere. We have great restaurants, bars and nice little streets to stroll and take my Italian greyhounds for a walk. I love my home and my little deck/terrace when the sun is coming down. I feel LA by itself has great resources (culture, music, art, food, beach, etc) and California has amazing natural resources very close by.

Gabriela: I like the short distances I have to walk or ride to enjoy the places I love.

Alejandro: I love to run around the Silver Lake reservoir. And I have great coffee shops and cafes. I go Downtown often and to West Hollywood daily so I’m right in the middle of my two poles of work.

Favorite thing to do in Los Angeles:

Teresita: I love having people over to Genesee or my house. I love the space so much that I hardly leave.

Gabriela: It varies from time to time, but I just moved into a new studio/house and my favorite thing is fixing it. I just love the idea that your house is your shelter, love shack, your private room, the most intimate it gets as a space, so I’m making it my own.

Alejandro: I like the art and culinary scene. I go to galleries and art museums all the time. That’s mostly what I do. And food wise, you can’t ask for more. We have it all. There are great restaurants all around.

What do you like most about your job?

Teresita: I enjoy that I can work with my hands and I’m pretty good doing meticulous things. Working with my sister on the jewelry line is a part that I can’t be thankful enough for; it can get hard but I love it! Genesee has brought me so many great relations, beginning with my family. It’s the thing I love the most—meeting new people and seeing them react to the things we do or the things we love. As far as Genesee and what I do (especially baking and plants), I just do it. It’s a pleasure to do something for you, and from you. It’s very relaxing and it’s even better when people appreciate what you do. It just makes me happy.

Gabriela: For me, I don’t consider it a job. It’s more of a challenge to make a living with what I love to do. But what I love most in what I do is that it comes out naturally.  There’s no inspiration. There’s no target. It just pops out from inside me. And I work with people that I admire in some way.

Alejandro: I don’t call it a job, I call it work. I only do work. I work in aesthetics as an architect, a designer or an artist. There really is no distinction between them to me. And I have been up to this since I graduated from high school, every single day, all the time.

Gentry in The Los Angeles Times

Gentry in The Los Angeles Times

Inspired by Norman Mailer’s 1960 article on JFK for Esquire magazine, “Superman Comes to the Supermarket,” local fashion line Gentry’s spring collection “embodies an Americana fantasy,” says designer Annie Imamura. The Kennedy tie set, top, handcrafted here in Los Angeles, pulls a posh look together fast. The wooden boxed set contains a print cotton necktie and pocket square, plus a silver-coated bronze collar clip, tie bar and tie pin. Last but not least, it includes a tie guide titled “The Handbook of Class and Distinction for the Modern Day Gentleman.”

The Futuristic is Here

The Futuristic is to date, Gabriela Artigas’ most ambitious collection. It is the most progressive, and in many ways it’s most forward looking. But just like the name hints, crystals and leather are far from new materials for mankind. In jewelry, they are more than classic or old fashioned, they are prehistoric.

Crystals supported by leather is nothing new to human beings, so our update focuses on geometric leather patterns, and asymmetric shapes with Swarovski crystals.

Striking such an impact, one would even speculate they are straight from the future.

collares collares collares

BR Republic in The Los Angeles Times Magazine

lamag

The Hellenist

Beyoncé gifted Jay-Z with this black sapphire

and rhodium Spartan ring designed by Maxim

of electronica band the Prodigy for British

jewelry line BR Republic. Enough said.